Monday, January 25, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: ALIEN HUNTERS, by David Arenson

This was another book I got from Nook on a Free Book Friday. It looked ... interesting. I mean, besides the fact that it was SF, it had a cool ship on the cover, and it was Free!!

Some kinds of humor just aren't my style or taste. For instance, some people think the Three Stooges and Jerry Lewis are the pinnacle of humor, while I think they can fall way over the side too often into obnoxious, moronic, and immature, with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer the size of the Empire State Building. I like subtle humor. I like humor that makes you stop and think, and you chuckle and read faster, rather than laughing out loud and falling off your chair. Disc World. Make sense?

So the humor in this book escapes me, but that doesn't mean it's wrong or it doesn't work -- it just isn't mine.

Too many things didn't work for me -- but then, I admit I'm really, really picky. Comes with the territory, being an editor. And I don't like being promised one thing, and then being disappointed. For instance, the "aliens" that this ragtag group of misfits hunts ... are essentially the space-age version of rats, termites, squirrels in the attic, and other vermin, but on the sometimes gigantic and really disgusting scale. Kind of a let-down when that was revealed.

On the other hand, the characters the author has created to populate the ship that not only is named after a dragon but is shaped like a dragon? Unique individuals, cleverly and expertly drawn. Each with so much to offer the story, each consistent within themselves. So that tells me this is a matter of taste, not talent. The author has got the talent. It's me, not him.

I know there are many people who will like this story as the characters go haring off across the galaxy, pursued by really disgusting characters out to rule the universe, spraying blood and gore wherever they go (even among themselves), on a quest to find possibly the last member of a magical race, while they bicker among themselves and try to keep the demon member of the crew from drinking the really expensive fuel for their ship. Try it, you might just like it!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: A HOBBIT, A WARDROBE AND A GREAT WAR, by Joseph Loconte

Writing books, by/about writers, about the process of writing -- specifically, their process of writing, how they became writers, the things that shaped them and their viewpoint -- I find fascinating and educational. Anyone interested in becoming a writer or refining their own process and "voice" should try to find books on the process by or about their favorite writers. Such insights will help them understand a little more clearly what goes on in their own heads.

This book, as you can tell from the title, is about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien -- and the "great war" refers to WWI. Specifically, how the war changed the world's attitudes and philosophies, and how their experiences in the war helped to shape these two writers' viewpoints and attitudes and values. I find it interesting and encouraging that they basically turned away from the pessimistic, humanistic trends of their day, in reaction to the devastation, cruelty, disillusionment and hypocrisy of WWI, the justification for the brutality and slaughter -- and they held to higher ideals and hope in their writing.

The two were friends, meeting in the academic community around Oxford years after the war. They supported each other's literary endeavors and helped shape each other's mindset, and later credited each other for their successes. This book is a keeper, not just because I adore Lewis and Tolkien, but for all the insights and growth and encouragement included in this little-known chapter in the story of their friendship and writing.

Read it. Re-read it. Loan it to your Hobbit and Free Narnian friends. They'll thank you for it.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: WIND AND SHADOW, by Kathy Tyers

Whew! Done. Book 1 of the one-book-a-week commitment for the year. I even went so far this year to list the first 10 books or so of what I plan to read on Goodreads, so you can hold me accountable.

What's nice is that it's a book I've wanted to read for a long time. Honestly, I've had this and the next book in the series sitting on my nightstand for at least 2 years, giving me the evil eye, whining in my sleep, demanding to know when I'll get to them. It's a rough life, having so many books waiting to be read that the riches turn into a burden.

I'm only partially joking.

WIND AND SHADOW is the 4th book in the series Kathy Tyers started many years ago with her landmark novel, FIREBIRD. The first three books have gone through quite a few shifts and changes and publishing houses, and now she's written two more books, following through on the promises and prophecies mentioned in the previous three. This series is set in a far future where conflicts familiar in recent movies are prevalent -- basically the tension between ordinary Humans and augmented Humans with talents. Can the changed Humans be trusted? Can the unchanged Humans be trusted? Who is going to make the first strike against the other? In the middle of all this are the gifted Sentinels with their Code, their devotion to the prophecies and to the guardian of their souls, and the Caldwell family, with their gifts and problems and the heavy burden of figuring in those prophecies .......

I think the sign of a really good series is that even with a break of at least 10 years since reading the last book, it didn't take long to pick up on who is who, what's going on, and remember the events of the previous books and what's at stake. If you're lucky (or maybe not so, because why did you wait so long?) you're on the verge of starting the series, with the waiting thrill of discovery and being drawn into the universe of Firebird and Brennan Caldwell and now, their descendants. ENJOY!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: THE EYE OF MINDS by James Dashner

This was a featured book on Nook a few weeks ago. It caught my attention because it's the first in a new series by the author of the Maze Runner book and its sequels. A chance to see what all the fuss is about!

Okay .... this one is a mind-bender. Fun, but kind of gritty.

Essentially, everybody is into playing in a virtual reality world of multiple games. Kind of telling that the box you get into to enter the VR world is referred to as a coffin. Full immersion, senses and mind, and you feel what happens to you in the VR world. Including hunger, bruises, torture ... Fortunately, when you "die" in VR, you just re-set.

At least, until a guy called Kaine shows up and starts taking over, and people deliberately suicide, destroying their own safeguards as a last resort to escape.

Our hero, Michael, is a high school kid who is a pretty talented gamer. A government agency recruits him and his two very talented friends to investigate, figure out what Kaine is doing, where he is, and try to open up a doorway so the authorities can get in there and stop him. This is a government you can't say no to -- because they'll stop all your access to the VR world if you don't cooperate. So what else can Michael and his friends do? They put their virtual lives on the line, and things get pretty grim by the time Michael makes it to the end of the trail -- and then the answers turn his entire world upside down. Didn't see it coming -- and yet the clues were all there.

Doggone it, I'm gonna have to read the rest of the books! Hooked. Even if you're not into VR-type stories and the computer world and programming and evil sentient programs and such ... you'll enjoy this.